Tuesday, July 3, 2012

William Greeneberry Russell

William Greeneberry Russell was a prospector and gold miner who settled in the Kansas Territory, in what would become Denver, in 1858.

William Greeneberry Russell
Russell was, in many ways, the single individual responsible for the development of what would become the city of Denver, and his discovery of gold in Little Dry Creek sparked both the settlement of the front range by white miners as well as the Longs Peak Gold Rush. He was also the head of the first large party of miners and settlers, numbering 107 individuals, who made their way into the Front Range and founded a permanent settlement. After establishing mining operations at the confluence of Cherry Creek and the South Platte River, at what is now Confluence Park in central Denver, Russell didn't meet with immediate or inspiring success. In fact, many of the original settlers that accompanied him, dispirited by the poor mining, opted to return to Georgia, Russell's home state and where he had found many of those who were willing to follow him west. However, in July of 1858 Russell did find a small deposit of gold in Little Dry Creek. News of the discovery was carried back to Kansas and newspapers there began writing of the gold that was waiting to be dug out of the Rocky Mountains. By September of 1859, there were nearly 900 miners working the deposits in Gregory Gulch and the Longs Peak Gold Rush was off and running.

Russell's association with gold mining in the Front Range didn't end well as he was run out of town after 1860 and the beginning of the Civil War. The community of miners was overwhelmingly comprised of Union soldiers and supporters and, as a Southerner, Russell saw the political and social environment turn quickly against him. He left Colorado only to be caught up in the Civil War. After the war he returned to Colorado but was not as successful as he had been previously. He settled in Indian Territory with his wife where he passed away after an illness.

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